The year Ryan turns fourteen is possibly the worst year of his life. His father dies – which is horrible enough in and of itself, but not exactly surprising given how he lived his life – but as a consequence, Ryan has to move to North Carolina to live with his aunt.
Which means leaving Spencer, his best friend.
Relationships are not something that come easy to Ryan. He knows he’s a bit weird, and more than a little awkward, but he and Spence just fit. They’re even in a band together. Well, they’re both learning instruments, but the point is: they were going to be the best pop punk band ever.
But not now, because Ryan’s going to fucking North Carolina.
They say they’ll write and Ryan tries, he does. He gets a letter from Spence, but every time he sits down, the pen freezes in his hand and he doesn’t know what to write back. That happens again and again until finally Ryan figures it’s been too long.
And it’s not like Spence tries again either.
(dirty hipster ex)
When Ryan heads out to USC for college, it’s like the first real breath he’s taken in nearly four years.
College is great because Ryan doesn’t have to fit in and yet he does. He’s not the only awkward, gangly, Palahniuk-obsessed twenty year-old in too-tight jeans, and when he goes through his scarf phase, no one even blinks an eye. It’s amazing.
Alex is a hazy-eyed, messy-haired pretty boy with a sharp gaze and an even sharper mind who flops down on the couch of some basement party that Ryan’s not really sure who’s throwing. He offers Ryan his blunt and three days later, they’ve got their hands around each other’s dicks in the bathroom of a different basement party.
It’s not like Ryan’s surprised – he’d spent far too much time staring at Pete Wentz’ batheart tattoo and leaked dick pics to not realize he wouldn’t mind putting in his mouth – but he’s not had a lot of practical experience in the area.
That changes. Drastically. Ryan’s never had so much sex in his life.
He’s well aware that Alex has a hard time maintaining interest, in school, in books, in life. He’s constantly searching for more, it seems. So it lasts longer than Ryan expects, to be honest. It’s not a clean break. More like Alex just drifts away from that part of their relationship, until Ryan finds himself back to using his own hands to get off once again.
However, Alex sticks around even though they’re not sleeping together anymore. Ryan’s more than a little surprised.
(too close to home ex)
Strangely enough, he meets Z Berg through Alex.
The first time he sees her, she’s wearing a short, white lace dress, hair braided in a crown around her head, and singing on stage with three other girls. Her voice is like wine and her legs go on forever. She hops off the stage once they’re done and drapes herself all over Alex, giving Ryan a once-over.
“This the one then?” she asks, and Ryan is enamored instantly.
They’re scarily similar, it turns out. The way they think, the music they like, and Ryan finds it so very easy to be with her. Six months later, when Z breaks it off, she tells him it’s too much like dating herself with a penis, something Ryan can’t actually argue against.
But she sticks around too and Ryan is still surprised.
(better as friends ex)
Two weeks into dating Dan, Ryan glances across the couch where his boyfriend is sprawled, their long legs tangled over each other, and says, “I think we should just be friends.”
Relief immediately makes its way over Dan’s face. “Oh, thank god.”
“Heyyyy,” Ryan drags out, trying to keep his laughter in check. He tries to dig his heel into Dan’s thigh, but nearly sends the both of them tumbling off the couch.
“No, seriously,” he gets back. “You’re hot and I like your dick a whole lot, but man, I really just like hanging out with you more.”
That’s what Ryan wants too. Dan’s a great friend, his best, if Ryan’s being honest. This feels like the right thing.
“I like your dick too,” Ryan tells him a moment later, and Dan beams back at him. “Wanna do Bonnaroo this year?”
(They do Bonnaroo. And Greece. And a million things in between and after. Ryan is not surprised at all this time.)
(ex ex-best friend)
If Ryan were to admit to himself the myriad of ways he’d end up seeing Spencer again – sliding into the seat across from him, post hockey match loss – is not one that would have come to mind. The look on Spencer’s face isn’t quite a grimace, but he does look like he’s sucking on a lemon. Only for a split second though, his face settling into something more neutral, more distant.
They do their quick, little catch-ups and Ryan’s two seconds away from slamming back the rest of his beer and getting as far away from this place as possible when Spencer adds, “and I jam with a couple of people a few times a week.”
“You still drum,” falls out of his mouth before he can stop it.
Spencer answers with a yes, not offering anything else.
“In a band,” gets another single yes in response. Ryan sets his teeth together firmly. “You play shows.”
“It’s been known to happen.” Spencer takes a sip of his beer as Ryan searches his memory for any possible chance he’s seen Spencer play. He sees a lot of shows; he might not play since those (bestworst) six months of his youth, but he and the crew he hangs out with love music. Plus, it’s LA; there’s a concert every night of the week, waiting to be found.
Spencer hasn’t offered any more and Ryan’s about to burst. “Where?” he practically hisses, only to have have Spencer shrug a moment later and tell him they play mostly in San Diego, small gigs and house parties.
He wants to reach over and smack Spencer, can’t help the familiar way he whines Spencer’s name - a fuck you and a you asshole, all in one.
It’s then he sees the minute curl of the corners of Spencer’s mouth right before he takes a sip of his beer and it hits Ryan then. Spencer has been riling him up on purpose. A familiar warmth rolls through him at the realization.
He bursts out laughing then, unable to help it. “You asshole.”
Spencer actually looks startled at Ryan’s response. It only lasts a minute, Spencer smirking back at him, and spreading his hands in acknowledgement.
It doesn’t take long to fall into an old pattern after that, a back and forth in their conversation that kind of feels like coming home. There’s something else there though. Something that Ryan is a little hesitant to put a name to, but that’s okay because by the end of the night, he’s got Spence’s email address and number in his phone.
There’s a look that flashes through Spencer’s eyes at Ryan’s, “I’ll text you.” It’s gone too quick, but Ryan can feel something tighten in his stomach.
That’s okay though because he’s ten years older now, a hell of a lot more self-aware, with a confidence and surety in himself that was severely lacking as a fourteen year-old. It’s something that Spencer will have to learn.
And he will.
Because Ryan’s got Spencer back and this time he won’t let him go.